The Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDI-W, which was canceled several weeks ago after Derby executive director Mary Anne McPhail terminated the contract with International Horse Sport Palm Beach, will now be held at the Global Dressage Festival facility at the Palm Beach Equestrian Center in Wellington, Fla. The dates, Feb. 27-March 2, will remain the same, pending approval from the U.S. Equestrian Federation.
McPhail, who previously hosted the Derby at her White Fences Equestrian Estates, and Evelyn O’Sullivan, director of the Palm Beach Dressage Derby, will be event chairs of this year’s competition. Equestrian Sport Productions LLC will manage the Derby, along with the seven other CDIs to be held at the Global Dressage Festival facility this season. The Mary Anne McPhail Cup will also be awarded at the Global Dressage Festival.
“[Mary Anne and Walter McPhail] really are great visionaries around dressage, and their unyielding commitment to dressage should be honored,” said ESP CEO Mark Bellissimo. “I was saddened when I heard [the Derby] was canceled. This was a great opportunity to take what was a disappointing set of facts, given that they terminated their agreement with the former managers, and try and salvage this great event. We’re just managing the date, and it’s really to make sure this stays alive. It’s such a great tradition.”
“I’m very pleased that we’re able to put on the Derby again,” added Mary Anne. “We were all disappointed it didn’t look like it was going to happen this year. I feel that the show grounds in Wellington are so beautiful, and the facilities are great. It will be a definite positive. We’re looking forward to a bigger and better future for the Derby.”
Robert Dover, chef d’equipe for the U.S. Dressage Team, helped connect Bellissimo and Mary Anne to help ensure the Derby might continue. Dover competed at the first Palm Beach Dressage Derby in 1983, winning the Grand Prix aboard Romantico.
“I was extremely upset on so many levels when I heard the Derby was going to be canceled,” said Dover. “One, it’s a great traditional show. From the point of view as a coach for a team, it also meant one less [Reem Acra FEI] World Cup Final qualifier. I’m so thrilled they were able to come to a great resolution that’ll honor the competition.”
The Derby was first held in 1983 at the Hanover Horse Farm in Loxahatchee. The competition moved to the McPhail’s Horse Park At Equestrian Estates, in the White Fences neighborhood, in 1999.
“Not that I don’t believe the show had a wonderful home in White Fences [in Loxahatchee, Fla.] for many years, but with the evolution of the sport, the necessity for show grounds that include a great indoor facility and a stadium-like outdoor is really paramount,” said Dover. “So I think this new change of venue will only help to improve the Derby and ensure its long-lasting life going forward.”
Editor’s note: The Bellissimo family owns The Chronicle of the Horse LLC, and Mark serves as its publisher.